Pecking Order movie still shot of middle-aged competitor with missing teeth holding a Plymouth Rock chicken

Pecking Order

Pecking Order is a quirky, entertaining, funny and family-friendly little doco out of New Zealand, with special appeal for the legions of folk participating in the backyard chook revival of recent years.

3 out of 5 stars

Review: (rolanstein)
Pecking Order is a quirky little doco that focuses on members of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club as they prepare their prized chooks for the coming NZ National Poultry Show. They’re an odd bunch with one thing in common: an obsession with their chickens and all that goes into making them appeal to the judges (one of whom is Australian, and therefore viewed with the default suspicion Kiwis reserve for those from across the ditch).

The members of the Club range in age from adolescent to septuagenarian+, and by good fortune the doco is shot during a period of unrest and turbulence – there’s plenty of conflict on show, which of course makes for some drama (and comedy!). There’s friction twixt the chook and pigeon sectors of the Club, for example. But that ain’t the main game. That would be the political machinations and jostling for power between the members.

The old guard, represented by the crusty, unpopular and long-rusted-on Club President, Doug, is in danger of being usurped by the new. Tyrannical and ultra-defensive Doug is havin’ none of that if he can help it. Which it seems he may not, going by the grumblings and mumblings building within the ranks – the film is well titled, referring to the political manoeuvrings within the Club as well as the impending ranking of the rival chooks at the Show.

There’s perhaps a little too much weight assigned to the humans rather than the chooks given that the market for a film like this is likely to be those with an interest in the latter. We’re probably talking a significant niche, with the massive revival in recent years of the tradition of urban folk keeping backyard chooks. Be assured, if you’re one of the chook brigade, there are some mighty fine feathered specimens on show here!

Pecking Order could have benefited with some trimming back, short though it is at 88 minutes. It’s the sort of doco that would be well suited to an hour slot on Sunday night on ABC or SBS.

That’s not to say it isn’t good Festival fare. If you’ve got backyard chickens, or an interest in this lowly but surely vastly underrated bird (is there another that has contributed more to humankind?), head for Somerville (currently screening) or Joondalup (see dates below) and you can be guaranteed of an entertaining, funny, family-friendly evening beneath the stars.

Pecking Order features: members of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club and judges of the NZ National Championships
Writer/Director: Slavko Martinov
Runtime: 88 min

Pecking Order screening dates (2017-18 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival):
UWA Somerville: 26 Dec-31 Dec 2017, 8.00 PM
ECU Joondalup Pines: 2 Jan-7 Jan 2017, 8.00 PM

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